Osprey Athlete Evan Stevens is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide, examiner and instructor for the AMGA, a member of the AMGA Board of Directors, and owner and lead guide of Valhalla Mountain Touring, a backcountry ski lodge in the Selkirks of British Columbia. Somehow he managed to do all of this whilst only escaping from the suburbs of New York City just over 10 years ago. When not on his skis, he can be found climbing hard rock in his summer home of Squamish, BC, or trying to fire off alpine rock free ascents through out the world. Highlights include numerous first descents in the Valhalla Range of BC, traditional rock ascents of up to 5.13, first free ascents in BC such as IV 5.12 Man of Steel in the Adamants, IV 5.12 R Lost in Space on Mt. Gimli, and speed ascents of big walls in Greenland. Besides that he is usually being humbled by his super human wife Jasmin, and trying to keep up to his dog Benny on the skin track.
I know it’s no longer winter, and the ski boots have officially been traded in for rock and bike shoes. In the spirit of not always looking ahead and living for the next moment, the rainy spring weather on the coast of British Columbia has given me a few days of wetness to reflect on an awesome winter.
Rather than wax on semi-poetically about the ski season and how great it was, I want to just try a different format, and go for a ‘best of’ if you will. So, no fluff, just straight to business, small blurbs and some pics and clips. Enjoy, and I hope your winter was as great as mine!
January 10, 2014, Grizzly Shoulder Tree skiing at Valhalla Mountain Touring. This day was everything I was missing last year on the couch with a blown up ACL. It had been snowing tons, the temps were cold, and after a month on the boards I was finally getting enough confidence in the knee rebuild to start really having some fun and opening it up. There is nothing like the pure joy of flying through the cold smoke with your favorite people in the word!
AMGA, Begbie Shoulder, British Columbia, Chamonix, Couloir, evan stevens, Grizzly Shoulder, guides, Jasmin Caton, Mt. Blanc, Osprey athlete, Revelstoke, Ruby Peak, ski tour, ski touring, Snow, Valhalla Mountain Touring, Western Europe, winter, Wragge Lake
Its a new season at Valhalla Mountain Touring — with a new ACL, a new snowpack and problems that are new to me. (more…)
The last two weeks has had it all in British Columbia. It started with blue skies and a bomber snow pack, and then the snow hose got pointed at us, for 130cms of new snow in the last week. This quick video gives a taste of a few runs from the last few weeks at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Enjoy!
Evan Stevens is a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide, examiner and instructor for the AMGA, a member of the AMGA Board of Directors, and owner and lead guide of Valhalla Mountain Touring, a backcountry ski lodge in the Selkirks of British Columbia. Somehow he managed to do all of this whilst only escaping from the suburbs of New York City just 10 years ago. When not on his skis, he can be found climbing hard rock in his summer home of Squamish, BC, or trying to fire off alpine rock free ascents through out the world. Highlights include numerous first descents in the Valhalla Range of BC, traditional rock ascents of up to 5.13, first free ascents in BC such as IV 5.12 Man of Steel in the Adamants, IV 5.12 R Lost in Space on Mt. Gimli, and speed ascents of big walls in Greenland. Besides that he is usually being humbled by his super human wife Jasmin, and trying to keep up to his dog Benny on the skin track.
It had to come to an end… the best season of powder skiing I have ever had at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Something like 80 of 90 days of the calendar winter with measurable precip. WOW… that just says to me, non-stop blower pow with no weak layers. I have never skied so much deep powder over 35 degrees in my life. So many new lines opened up at the lodge, and so many runs skied in the best conditions ever.
With almost 4 meters of new snow in the last month, it was really nice to wake up to some cold and clear arctic high pressure up north in Canada. The snowpack has doubled in depth, tightened up and the last storm finished off with a sweet icing of cold smoke. All of this has coincided with my first few “days off” from life at Valhalla Mountain Touring. I know, tough life that I live, having to be up at a backcountry ski lodge full time. But its nice to ski somewhere different, drive a car, and watch TV in a hotel room after 6 weeks of not even turning my cell phone on, or driving more than 5km to the dump once a week!
At the end of every ski season I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Not because I am excited that the winter is over, more so that I am excited I navigated through the avalanche mine field successfully, that all of my guests/clients were safe, and that seasons are changing, and it is time for rock shoes and chalk.
Running a backcountry ski lodge (Valhalla Mountain Touring) in the wilds of British Columbia is definitely a dream come true, but after you work 100 days in a row, give or take, in avalanche terrain, you are ready for a break.
So this year, my wife and I decided that we would spend 5 weeks cruising around France, sampling the finest in French limestone, red wines, cheeses and baked goods. I may have put the rock first in that list, but the other items may have brought more joy in the end…
We started our journey with 10 days in an area known as the Gorges du Tarn, 1 pitch steep and pocketed limestone cragging, where we could attempt to transfer our ski legs in to climbing arms. We threw ourselves at pitch after pitch of overhanging jug hauls until the aching forearms made us quit and return to our ‘Gite’ to drink some wine (a gite is a French term for a small studio vacation rental. These cost anywhere from 20€ to 30€ a night and are all over France). After a bunch of days we decided we had just barely enough fitness to go try our hand at some long routes.
Ever since I started rock climbing, I heard mythical tales of the Verdon Gorge. The 1,000-foot deep limestone canyon required you to rap in and climb out, with no easy means of retreat. Grades were supposedly REALLY hard, and the runouts between bolts were astronomical. GULP. So there was no choice on our next destination — the Verdon — and to see if the rumors were true.
Far and away, my favorite type of climbing is to do long, multi-pitch free routes. I love doing pitch after pitch of hard climbing way above the ground — maybe that is why I have made Squamish, BC my home with its plethora of hard multi-pitch free climbs. This is what the Verdon Gorge is all about.
I did some research enroute and found us an incredible gite to stay, just right up our alley. The place is called ‘Mayreste‘ and is run by this great couple named JF and Anita. It is a few kilometers away from the gorge on a quiet piece of land with stunning views, running on solar power and spring water. If you go to the Verdon, you have to stay with these guys!
Now there was nothing left to do but climb, and I had a slew of classic routes for Jasmin and I to tackle. We parked at the top of the cliff, walked for 30 seconds, and were at the rap anchors. With wide eyes and butterflies in our stomachs, we decided to start with ‘La Demande’, the first full length route in the Verdon, completed in 1968. Being the first full-length route, it follows a big weakness in the cliff, with cracks and chimneys for large portions of the climb. Jasmin and I are both trad adventure climbers, having done our crack and chimney penance, so the 11 pitch 5.10 route went relatively fast, and before we knew it, we were drinking wine back at out gite. So far the Verdon wasn’t as hard and scary as we thought… But were we getting too cocky?
Next up was something a little harder, Pichenbule, a 5.11+, that weaves its way up the walls for 12 pitches. Back we went to the canyon rim, and rapped in with overcast skies-but rain wasn’t really in the forecast. The first 4 pitches of the route went relatively fast, but then the drizzle started. Being at a ledge, we weighed our options — we had a choice of a 5.5 escape route back to the top, so we wouldn’t have to rap down and walk out 15km back to our car in the rain. We decided to take that option, but halfway up the weather seemed to get better, so we rapped BACK down to the ledge and started back up the original route. Oops, 2 pitches into that route, the skies began to laugh at us, belching heavy rain and hail on us. Luckily we chose another 5.10- escape route at that point with well bolted hand cracks taking us back out of the the canyon. Three soaking wet and lightening electrified pitches later we were back on the rim, running for the car. At least we weren’t walking out all afternoon in the rain!
After some rest (and gear drying!) we decided to try and tackle one of the classic test pieces of the Verdon. ‘La Fete des Nerfs’ which translates to something like the birthday of nerves. Hmmm. At 10 pitches long with all of the pitches being harder than 5.10 and half of them around 11+/12- we were in for a hard day on the rocks. We started early, packed light and rapped in, psyched for the hard climbing and the adventure.
Yeah, there were some big run outs and the climbing was hard, but Jas and I were warmed up for the adventure and right where we wanted to be. A few falls, over all, but pitch after pitch of brilliant climbing, under steel blue skies, with amazing rock. It was so great to be there, and it makes my hands sweat just thinking about it. Lucky for me, I chase my dreams and make sure they come true — and climbing in the Verdon has been a dream of mine for a long time.
After ‘La Fete des Nerfs’ we moved on with our road trip, sport climbing in Ceuse, and then some more amazing multipitch routes in Presles, but by far and away my time in the Verdon was the most memorable of our 5 week road trip. Now I am back home, climbing the granite of Squamish and super excited for the alpine rock climbing season to start here!
For more info on the Verdon Gorge check out this online article